Pros and Cons of Calisthenics


So if I’m not mistaken you’ve been away from barbells and dumbbells for almost a year. Can you explain the pros and cons you’ve seen with calisthenics?


In no particular order here they are…


· No loss of muscle mass/size. My weight is roughly the same, measurements are largely the same.

· This may be the biggest worry for former barbell men. I know it was mine but…

· Provided volume is adequate and you’re eating enough, this concern appears unfounded

· Strength wise it’s apples and oranges. I haven’t tested them in almost a year, but I’m sure my 1RM barbell lifts are down, at least somewhat

· Like anything else though, that’s a learned skill and I’m sure it wouldn’t take long to tune up the CNS and be right back where I was

· On the other hand, I can perform bodyweight movements I was never able to do before – Things like handstand pushups, 1 legged squats, heavier weighted dips and weighted chins

· And why? Same reason. You get better at what you practice.

· Another PRO – joints feel much better. That strained IT band doesn’t hurt anymore. My lower back feels much better as does my elbow.

· The elbow was the worst, bone on bone arthritis so let’s take that as an example.

· When I started cals, I couldn’t even support myself with BW due to the pain – much less do a single dip. Today I can dip with 100lbs of extra weight. And remember, it’s not like I’m much lighter (maybe 5lbs).

· Even better, I can see even heavier dips in the future.

· Progress is also more predictable. As long as I don’t get greedy and try to rush things, small gains frequently are assured. Come to think of it, I haven’t hit a significant plateau in almost a year.

· The one exception is when I eat too much, gain around 5lbs and certain lifts stall (like weighted chins). The solution is simple though, lose the weight.


· I haven’t leaned out like I thought I would. That’s largely my fault (diet), but it does go to show there’s more to it than just doing BW exercises and poof, there goes the fat. Diet is still the #1 driver of body fat levels.

· There’s no pre-workout psyche up or rush of hitting a big new PR on bench, squat or deadlifts. Going to the gym used to be an event. Now it’s just….. time to go to the gym. Big difference.

· That can be a positive if you’re suffering adrenal fatigue, but it’s a negative for a junkie like me who loves that feeling.

· Plateaus require fundamentally different solutions vs. weights.

· When you plateau with weights, the solution is usually to change sets, reps, intensity level or frequency. Sometimes a mix of all of them.

· With BW stuff, the solution can be as simple as losing weight.

· The solution can also means stepping back a level or 2 and using an easier variation of the exercise, then working that until you’re ready to make the jump to the harder version again.

As you can see, there are pros and cons to cals that should be taken into consideration. Remember too it shouldn’t be an all or nothing proposition. Simply take the best from both, combine them as you see fit and milk them for all they’re worth.

That’s the real “PRO” to calisthenics IMO, they complement your free weight stuff incredibly well and that’s how you should use them…

Hope that helps..

Posted in

Coach Rob Regish

Rob Regish is an internationally recognized name in the field of health and fitness. He's been a weekly contributor to for almost a decade, answering listener questions from around the world.

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.